For us Michiganders, we’ve just finished our third week of school and MacGyver-ing is in full swing. Among my favorites from this week, a student and I used a band-aid to fix her broken glasses while riding a bus to the football game. But, what I’m really excited to share is how I’ve used MacGyver Math with my Algebra students.
Our first math department meeting of the year started with about ten boxes of Standardized Test Prep books that go along with our textbooks. We don’t know why we got them or who ordered them, because it certainly wasn’t any of us. Most of us still had the books from last year that we’d never used, and now we had about 500 more. So, we stacked them up in the corner of the department head’s room and left it at that.
But, guilt set it in, and that was a lot of books to let collect dust. And, despite personal opinions, the students do need to be prepped for standardized testing. And we did say last year that there is quite a large discrepancy in the test questions we are writing and the questions on the SAT… so, I felt compelled to find a use for these books.
My colleague and I - we plan and teach together - started out the school year with growth mindset activities, Inspirational Math, and some discussions around the Standards of Mathematical Practices. We wanted a way to continue these ideas and conversations as we began moving into content. We also needed to start using the literacy strategies from the RAAD (Reading Apprenticeship Across the Disciplines) training we went to this summer. In a creative light, the books seemed to fit our needs.
My thought was this: every day we could use one of the problems in the book as a warm-up. However, instead of having the students complete the problem and then go over it with them, we could use this as an opportunity to build some important math thinking skills. So far, we have brainstormed a couple different things the kids could do with the problem of the day:
Our list is still a work in progress, but we feel that allowing the students to interact with the problems in ways other than “right vs. wrong” will help them feel more comfortable interacting with new problems and open their minds to in-depth math discussions. Also, our hope is that more students will choose to engage with the problem if we take away the pressure to get the question correct. In other words, we are trying to create a low entry point so all of our students can be involved. Even if they don’t know the answer, they can still “say something” about the problem that adds to the class discussion. In addition to all this, we are checking off a few instructional requirements as well: RAAD strategies, reciprocal review, and test prep.
We gave the same problem a go in all of our classes this week, and it turned out awesome! We asked the kids to talk to the text for the entire problem, including the answers, and pick what they thought was the right answer. During class discussion, I asked them to share what they “said” to the problem and then asked for answers they knew were wrong as I recorded their thoughts in my own book. The kids were eager to share and the pictures below capture all of the things they had to say about this problem (I’m so proud of them!).
Can you think of other things we could ask the kids to do with these problems? Or have other ideas about how we could use the books? What you do with similar problems? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments below!